The production system doesn’t care that you are drunk on love, horny, or in pain. Capitalism cages us in. It wants us to dedicate out time to work or consumption. Love is unproductive. Feminisms demand the reconciliation of work and family life, but, even more, we need a model that is compatible with pleasure and affective relationships.
Translated by Sejal Shah
If the average working day, including preparation and travel to and from work, amounts to ten hours, and if the biological needs for sleep and nourishment require another ten hours, the free time would be four out of each twenty-four hours throughout the greater part of the individual’s life.) This free time would be potentially available for pleasure.
Herbert Marcuse, Eros and Civilization
How much time do you dedicate to love? Not to thinking or dreaming about it, or consuming it in the form of a film or a book, but actually living it? How long has it been since you spent hours making love to your long-time partner, like when you first started going out? How much time do you have to get to know new people and meet someone that you really like? How much time do you have to experience one of those head over heels romances?
Probably not a lot. There’s not enough time for love. To get to know someone, to get wrapped up in love, to be blinded, to let yourself go, to recover, and to fall in love again.
Our daily obligations are gruelling, and at the end of a long day, we sink into the sofa to read, watch TV, or check social media. Tiredness stops us from jumping around in bed with our partner.
We live in a loved up society: the radio plays songs of heartbreak; films at the cinema have a love story in them be it in the forefront or the background; we have news stories of celebrities coming out to the world and introducing us to their partners; magazines circulate rumours and gossip about famous people falling in love or separating; social networks are full of people looking for the one; Facebook informs us of the couples around us getting married; on television sentimental dramas are a huge success, in advertisements we’re sold homes, cars, furniture or deodorants with romantic bliss.
However, there’s little time for love. Marcuse understood it well: few are the minutes we dedicate to pleasure. We spend most of the day at work in exchange for a wage and what remains is for sleep and basic needs of nutrition and hygiene (and the thousand other obligations of postmodern urban life). We make love at the end of the day, before going to bed, when exhaustion has piled up, and we’re in a rush to get it done quickly so as to get our seven or eight hours sleep, if we’re lucky.
We’d have a better time of it if we could dedicate entire days to talking, playing, making love, eating well, and listening to great music with our partners. But the schedules we have don’t permit relaxation or enjoying love. Our agendas are always packed with things to do after an eight hour workday plus another two in the commute or getting around: going to the gym, going to yoga class, taking the dog out, attending community meetings, getting together with school friends, taking the cat to the vet, emptying the pile of dirty plates and pans, going to the dentist, replying to emails, doing the weekly shop, watering the plants, getting your trousers adjusted, going to therapy, putting a wash on, tidying and cleaning the house, preparing diner and lunch for the next day, skyping with your sister who moved abroad, returning calls and replying to whatsapps, waxing your legs and moustache, making sure the kids do their homework, going to the neighbours’ association meeting, going to the post office, going to the bank, taking the kid to computer classes and then to English class, taking the kid’s glasses to get fixed, taking the computer to get fixed, doing accounts and checking bills, studying something that’ll help you grow professionally…
Yes, our daily obligations are gruelling. And at the end of a long day, we sink into the sofa to read, watch TV, or check social media and forget about our worries for a short while. In those moments, we’ve perhaps an hour left before we fall into the arms of Morpheus, and fatigue doesn’t allows us to frolic in bed with our partner. According to most of the statistics, the days which people set aside to enjoy sex are the weekends, and as we all well know, they’re too short to do everything we want to do; that is, live our lives.
If it’s already difficult to make time and space to share with our partners, imagine those who have lovers and multiple partners. Being polyamorous is not easy.
Time slips from our grasp and we curse ourselves when we realise we’ve gone ages without seeing that old friend, or without visiting our grandma, or without getting together with the university gang. Or when we go to a funeral and say, “we’ve got to see each other more, we’ve got to get together on happy occasions too”.
The tyranny of time elapsing dilutes when we fall wildly in love. We become free when the high of new love disrupts our perception of and relation to time, as if we were taking drugs. We stop watching the clock, intense nights of love feel short, sublime moments suspend time and make us eternal.
Yes, love makes us goddesses of time. Under the influence of passion we are capable of savouring every second of love, grasping the present in our hands and living the now with a thrilling intensity. Time no longer goes by inexorably second by second towards the future at a monotonous rhythm. Seconds feel like hours, hours like minutes; time slows down (when we’re waiting for a call, or for the next date) or accelerates (when we’re submerged in moments of crazy love), and life is more exhilarating because our perception of reality is turned on its head.
Our organism, too, is transformed and we acquire superpowers. The chemistry of love is so strong that we are capable of spending entire nights with our loved one without sleeping, and of going to work every day and fulfilling our obligations as if nothing had happened: the only thing that gives you away is the permanent smile, the dark circles under your eyes, the glowing skin, and the shiny hair. Another night of no sleep awaits you, you feel like you can do anything: you fill yourself with cosmic energy to live the present fully.
When the giddiness of love passes and we return to our real lives, we lose the power to dedicate hours to making love and the body responds badly if you keep depriving it of hours of sleep. With the passing of months and years, partners throw themselves deeper into their social lives than their private one, and it’s difficult for many to return to constructing those intimate spaces full of the power to stop time. And so, there are people who complain that we fuck in a rush, we fuck without passion, we fuck tired, we don’t fuck enough or we don’t fuck at all.
If it’s already difficult to make time and space to share with our partners, imagine those who have lovers and multiple partners: it’s almost impossible to find slots in the day to dedicate to love without watching the clock. Adulterous couples scarcely get to enjoy an hour or two (there’s no time for more than that), but polyamorous people also have it difficult, as there isn’t enough time for several simultaneous partners: the weekend only has 2 nights and 3 days, which fly by.
The production chain can’t stop for your feelings, and it suits capitalism that we aren’t too happy: our permanent dissatisfaction and pain makes us more vulnerable.
Yes, it’s difficult to be polyamorous in these times if you want to dedicate quality time to all your relationships, if you want to really enjoy your social life (your community, your tribe, your neighbourhood, your family), and if on top of all that you need time to enjoy your own space- time alone.
We live in a system of production which chains us for 40 hours a week to a job which gives us a generally precarious wage (many do 50 or 60 hours a week, stealing from their hours of sleep or their personal life in exchange for little or nothing).
Not only do we give corporations our time, but also our physical, mental and emotional energy. How many of us have had to drag ourselves out of bed to go to work, feeling that we have left a bit of ourselves behind? How many people have skipped worked some time or other because they were in love? How many times have you longed to be playing between the sheets, while looking out the window and counting down the hours till you can leave work? How many times have you lost concentration at work and been unable to finish your task because of a love who’s waiting for you at home, cooking you dinner?
Capitalism cages us in, even though we are not productive. Capitalism doesn’t care that you are drunk on love, horny, euphoric, worried, anguished, desperate, sad, anxious, or upset. Capitalism doesn’t care that your friend is in hospital and you want to be there by her side. It doesn’t care that you’re going to have an important conversation with your partner, or that you’re hurting from a breakup; if you want to support a friend through a hard time. It doesn’t care, and you have to go to work even though your grandma’s dying. It doesn’t care if you you’ve been up all night because of your daughter’s flu, or if you’ve spent the night making sweet love. You have to be there, fulfilling your duties, even though you’re not productive and don’t get anything done that day.
If you set up by yourself, it’s the same. You generally can’t allow yourself the luxury of taking some days off for your emotional issues, because then you won’t eat that month. The production chain can’t stop for your feelings, and it suits capitalism that we aren’t too happy: our permanent dissatisfaction and pain makes us more vulnerable. And so the exploitation of our time and energy is brutal, because it goes further than the question of productivity. We live in a repressive society whose interest it’s in to restrict our access to pleasure, love, play and enjoyment. It’s preferable that we enjoy ourselves in consumption, or dedicate our time to work. Love is unproductive and barely profitable.
There’s not much time for love, and sometimes not much energy. Passionate falling in love is not eternal; our heads and hearts can’t be years and years in love. It’s exhausting generating that level of endorphins and amphetamines all the time. On top of that, romance always ends up being crushed by the tyranny of timetables, of routine, of obligations. Many couples fall out of love because the barely spend any time together: quality time, time for eroticism and love without limits.
In addition to not having time to experience romance, we also don’t have time to take pleasure in our kids, people dear to us, our pets: we spend most of the day out of the house, producing to enrich other people who, in reality, don’t need to keep us for so many hours.
Feminisms demand the reconciliation of work and family life: 8 hours at work every day is incompatible with looking after kids and elderly or poorly relatives. And it turns out that 90% of carers in the world are women. Some have to give up their economic autonomy and the labour market, and others take on a double work day.
There are countries where workers don’t have the right to paid holidays (if they do, it’s 2 weeks a year, without pay), but there are others like Iceland or Switzerland which are putting in place new measures to improve the quality of life of its citizens. In Switzerland’s case, it is understood that it is not the time spent that determines the level of productivity, but rather the well-being and motivation of its workers. They have decided to implement a 6 hour workday, without a reduction in salary, which seems to have increased levels of job satisfaction: furthermore, it improves productivity, increases states savings and creates more jobs. I can imagine just how happy those municipal workers must be about gaining an hour more for their friends, family, community, hobbies, for themselves, or to relax.
Time is gold: our lives are short and we need a system of production in keeping with our bare necessities, both individual and collective. Romantic capitalism offers us many happy endings while robbing us of time for life: we need to get back our time, and we need energy to enjoy life.
We need time for love, to enjoy pleasure in all its forms. Time to listen, to travel, to meet new people, to share, to build community. Time to support each other, create networks, celebrate, learn and create. Time to cultivate and nourish the only thing that can give some meaning to your life: affective relations.